Working group formed to review schedule for a safe, secure and impactful return to action; Combined events in Dubai and Cape Town will not take place in 2021 Series; Health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public remains top priority; New Zealand were awarded men’s and women’s titles as 2020 Series concluded – read here (https://bit.ly/3hORgJc).
Following the recently announced conclusion of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with New Zealand confirmed as both men’s and women’s champions, World Rugby and its partners are continuing to focus on planning for the 2021 Series and the build-up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are now less than one year away.
After a comprehensive consultation process and constructive dialogue with the host organisations, it has been decided that the combined men’s and women’s Dubai and Cape Town rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021, which were provisionally scheduled for 26-28 November and 4-6 December 2020 respectively, will not take place due to the ongoing and dynamic global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decisions were taken in line with relevant government and international public health authority advice and with the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public taking precedence. Both hosts are due to return to a full Series schedule beyond this season.
World Rugby and its partners continue to focus on delivering the remainder of the 2021 men’s and women’s Series, while working in full collaboration with all stakeholders to closely monitor the ongoing and challenging COVID-19 environment.
A working group chaired by World Rugby Executive Committee and Council member John Jeffrey and including representatives of host and participating unions, players and coaches, has been formed to review contingency plans and evaluate preparations for the safe, secure and impactful return to international rugby sevens competition, and to ensure that the product is the best it can be for hosts, participating unions, broadcasters and commercial partners.
The working group will also review opportunities for HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series events in 2021. The second division of international rugby sevens was launched in 2020 to promote the global growth of the game and provide a pathway for emerging nations to gain promotion to core status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, as Japan’s men successfully achieved after claiming the inaugural title in 2020.
With 21 of the 24 teams already qualified for the Olympic rugby sevens competition in Tokyo, planning for the Olympic Repechage final qualification event in the first half of 2021 is ongoing. Rugby sevens is expected to be one of the hottest tickets of the Tokyo Games, following the huge success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which captured the nation’s hearts, filled stadiums and created millions of passionate new rugby fans and participants across Japan and Asia.
World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “While we share in the disappointment of players, teams, fans, hosts and everyone involved with the popular events in Dubai and Cape Town, this is a prudent decision taken with the health and wellbeing of the global rugby community and wider society as our top priority and guided by the relevant government and international public health authority advice. We look forward to welcoming these wonderful destinations back to the Series following this year’s hiatus.
“Through the Sevens Working Group we are continuing to work very hard in close collaboration with all stakeholders, including host and participating unions, International Rugby Players, and our commercial and broadcast partners to achieve our shared objective of a spectacular return to HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series action as soon as it is safe to do so and we continue to plan and prepare for all remaining events in the 2021 Series.
“Our research demonstrates that rugby sevens is an important driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations where it attracts new fans with its dynamic, skilful and spectacular style. Rugby sevens is a key priority for our organisation and as we prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games hot on the heels of the success of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, 2021 has the potential to provide another huge step-change in the awareness and participation of rugby sevens around the globe.”
President Dnata & Emirates Group Services Gary Chapman said “We are of course disappointed not to be hosting the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens for the first time in 51 years, but we understand the extraordinary circumstances surrounding today’s cancellation of the opening tournaments of the new season.”
International Rugby Players Head of Legal and Player Welfare David Quinlan said: “Players are again disappointed to see two more major tournaments cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but these decisions are made for the right reasons.
“We’re working with our player reps, World Rugby and other stakeholders through the Sevens Format Working Group to ensure that we get as meaningful and complete a schedule in place for this coming season as possible.”
New Zealand were awarded both the women’s and men’s titles for the 2020 Series after finishing top of the standings before the pandemic interrupted the Series with five of the eight women’s rounds and six of the 10 men’s rounds successfully completed.
Olympic Champions Australia finished second in the women’s Series with Canada in third. In the men’s Series, 2018 champions South Africa finished in second place with Olympic and 2019 Series champions Fiji in third.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is an annual multi-stop global competition that began in 1999. In 2019 World Rugby announced new-look men’s and women’s Series for a four-year cycle, including six combined events, as the women’s series increased to eight rounds for the first time in its history.
Dubai and Cape Town, alongside New Zealand, Sydney, Hong Kong and Paris were appointed to host combined men’s and women’s events. In the women’s series, the USA Women’s Sevens is hosted in Glendale, Colorado, which was the season opener in 2020 and was since moved to later in the schedule alongside the Canada Women’s Sevens in Langford, British Columbia, which is also a standalone event. The men’s Series includes standalone events in London, Los Angeles, Singapore and Vancouver, which was the last event to take place before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the 2020 season to an early conclusion.
The future of rugby sevens is bright as the short format game continues to grow, engaging and attracting ever greater global audiences. In 2019, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series saw record-breaking fan engagement figures with a year-on-year increase of 64 per cent across video views to 198 million, and the Series attracted more than 749,800 attendees to its events globally.
The growth trend continued in broadcast viewing figures with Futures Sport & Entertainment reporting a 20 per cent increase in total cumulative average audience for the year-to-date in 2020, with 13.9 million fans reached compared to 11.7 million by the same stage in 2019.